Now, regular readers will know that there is an important annual event in my work diary. It is a summer garden party that is hosted in the shadow of Lancaster’s ancient castle by one of the oldest law firms in the North. Why there? Lancaster Castle has a busy Crown Court where famous trials from the Lancashire Witches to the Birmingham Six have taken place. So, as you can imagine, a thriving legal scene surrounds it and people from the whole region wait with baited breath each year to see if they have made it onto the garden party guest list.
You see it is rumoured that you have to be known for either your money or your mind to secure an invitation. Given that the definition of money around here is a landed estate that has been in your family for at least four generations, I know that I am certainly not meeting those criteria. Perhaps I am meeting the list of minds – who knows.
There isn’t a dress code as such but lots of the women are solicitors and barristers who have come straight from work so it is very much business dress and there tend to be a lot of suits in black and navy. I was just starting to puzzle over what to wear this year when Cecily got in touch with me and asked if I had an event that I would like to borrow a dress for. I took one look at their website and fell in love with their approach. All of the dresses are beautiful but one in particular stood out.
We arrived early so that we could take some pictures to show you. It was a blustery grey evening and it was hard to find a sheltered spot. This is the approach to the castle, up the steps of the ancient Priory that lies beside it. And here is the Cecily dress from behind. I wanted to begin by showing you the tailoring. You see I was a bit concerned when it arrived because I had expected it to be made from ponte but there was no stretch in the fabric. However I tried it on and the fit was incredible. This is a standard size 12 and it needed no altering, it was almost as if it was made for me.
I particularly love the deep split which is an alluring surprise from behind. It has been cleverly designed not to reveal too much leg. All of the beauty of this dress is in the architecture and here is the front view. The only feature is the asymmetric neckline which sits perfectly because the gathers on the shoulder ensure there is no gaping.
As lots of you know, although I don’t live there now, Lancaster is the city where I was born and went to school. I am incredibly proud of my birthplace and this is my favourite spot. From this hill, you can look over the counties of Lancashire, Yorkshire and Cumbria and out across the Irish Sea. I defy your spine not to tingle if you come here. You can feel the history, from the Romans onwards, whispering in the breeze around you.
Back to Cecily though – the company is run by Louise and Sarah, two women who have risked everything to follow their dream. Just the sort of people that we all like to support. Their premise is that their dresses will appeal to anybody who:
- hates fuss but loves beautiful detail
- hates body-con but loves tailored heaven
- hates overdone but loves adaptable simplicity
Cecily are principally designing for business women. Their view is that you don’t need to wear a suit in order to be level with men in the boardroom. Instead they want to help women underpin their strengths sartorially. They do this by creating clothes that flatter the female form without revealing too much flesh.
On this occasion I was clearly wearing this dress for a work event – I needed to play my part as a marketing director. However I would just as happily wear it for a wedding, christening or for a summer event such as the races or… it would be absolutely perfect for a graduation ceremony.
When I wear dresses like this, I am often asked why I like them to fall below the knee. I think a lot of people forget to try sitting down in a dress before they buy it. If you have hips, as soon as you sit down your dress will rise up your legs. If it is above the knee to start with, you will reveal a large expanse of thigh. It’s fine if you are comfortable with that but because I wear these dresses for meetings, I much prefer the retro elegance of a longer hemline. I’ve been caught out by low level chairs too many times!
So, how did the garden party go? It was as lovely as ever, the wind eventually blew the rain clouds in but not until the very end. A lot of women came over and asked discreetly where the dress was from so it clearly stood out. At the back of my mind I had wondered whether the blush pink would feel too feminine but it didn’t. It is such a high trend colour this year that it has lost its association with bridesmaids and little girls. I was pleased that I chose black shoes rather than nude though. I know the Middletons have made the pairing of nude and blush popular but I prefer the high contrast of black.
I very rarely mix my working life with my blog so, that’s been a little peek into the other side of my world today. Do pop onto the Cecily website and have a look at their dresses. You might be lucky – some of the sale dresses have been reduced from £150 to £30 although there aren’t many sizes left. However it’s a great opportunity to secure a piece of exquisite tailoring and support a small British brand at the same time.
Disclosure: thank you to Cecily for lending me the dress for this event, I will be sad to send it back. I was under no obligation to dedicate a post to it, I simply loved it so much that I did. They are a very small brand so please support them by visiting their website and spreading the word.
Sales that have started
Jigsaw – up to 50% off
Joules – up to 50% off
House of Fraser up to 50% off
Jack Wills – up to 50% off
Reiss – up to 50% off
Pure Collection – up to 60% off
Whistles summer sale – new lines added